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At 13, I bought my first container of foundation. With some money my sister gave me, I walked into our local drugstore and purchased Maybelline's Dream Matte Mousse in caramel (their darkest shade) and prayed it would turn me into the “right” kind of girl.

All the other girls in my class became obsessed with makeup at 12. Makeup meant boys and boys meant a new horizon. Not so much for me. The world began swirl around me at twelve. My little splintering realities started to cave and the ups and down of my early childhood became the mountains and peaks of depression I was struggling to get over. So while everyone else was concerned with typical middle school angst and I was in the corner doodling and dreaming about trying on my brothers new school clothes.

By 13, I had decided it was better (and safer) to just fit in so I went ahead and bought some foundation. It was at this age that I also began to realize that I was not like other girls. I had developed a crush on one of  my best friends, so efficiently hiding was my only goal and honestly it felt awesome to fit in, but the ability to hide behind something as simple as Maybelline's Dream Matte Mousse in caramel, was enough for me. Escaping the threat of hellfire was enough for me.  That mousse in "gray-brown" was powerful, but ultimately it became too powerful. There was a point that I was so scared to be seen as anything other than straight, that the need to have on makeup ended up controlling me. I didn't feel "safe" without it.

Fast forward six years to my college days,  I was now a makeup expert (in my eyes at least). I had long since parted with that damn Maybelline pore clogging mousse and makeup was no longer a mask for which my real self could hide behind, but rather it was becoming a means to explore myself.

Around this time, I gave myself permission to explore everything without fear, BOTH my masculine and feminine self, my sexuality, drugs, anything. I was a kid "experimenting" or so that's how I would justify my new found freedom if my family ever caught me doing something "too free". I was doing all kinds of things, dating all kinds of people, and I slowly began to alter my makeup depending on who I was with at the moment.  When I was dating a guy, the bolder, more feminine looks won. If I was trying to meet other queer women, I would go for a subtle, less intense look (which I preferred). Exploration was the name of the game, and for the first time it felt good to put on makeup. I wasn’t hiding anymore. I was becoming.

On my 21st birthday, after a long summer of coming to terms with my queer identity and as I was exploring Europe as an exchange student, I came out to my mom and friends. With this new found ownership I had over my identity, came this burning desire to figure out what my look would be. In came the blazers, ties, mini skirts, oversized shirts, and loafers I picked up from local thrift stores. Then came the baseball caps, beanies, and baggy clothes. After much experimentation, I decided that I liked androgyny the most. I finally realized that I didn't have to choose between my masculine or feminine self, that I could be both. So naturally, my makeup followed suit.  I let the bold stuff go. I wanted my makeup to be natural but elevated, shiny but not beat into submission.

Putting on makeup was no longer an act of being more palatable. It became a political statement — a message to the world that I now knew exactly who I was.  My face became a safe space for identity expression in a world full of binaries and boxes, I was saying a big ol' fuck you to "this or that".

The day after my 23rd birthday, I moved to Korea for a year. That year turned into 5 years and a thriving modeling career. Crazy right, me, the awkward tomboy now modeling for major publications like VOGUE, in a foreign country. It was during my time in Korea that I really began to truly fall in love with myself. All that young angst began to settle. No more political statements, no more hiding, no more exploring, no more worrying about boxes. I was in love with my real self, my queer self, my androgynous self, and my cosmetic loving self. I realized for the first time that I could live in a world where all my selves could be free and validated. It was after this revelation and a few months before I was to move back to America from Korea, that I decided to create my own makeup brand. I wanted to help others feel that balance too. iME Cosmetics or if you say it fast enough, I am Me Cosmetics, is my ode to our authentic selves. Whoever we decide to be.

Personally, I still have a hard time finding my right shade of foundation (sadly). I'm always squirting out products onto my hand and wiping them off when the undertone isn't quite right, so much so that I literally decided to make my own line (bloop), but that's the beauty of becoming and of learning and growing. You have the ability to confidently be what you want to be,  while still allowing your identity to ebb and flow with the new stages in your life. My foundation may not always be perfect but it still makes me feel like a powerful human being who deserves to take up space in this world and it has led me to want to take up space in the cosmetic industry. That’s what I love the most about makeup: it’s powers. Never forget that, that lip gloss you love to wear is actually your secret weapon. Use it wisely. Also, don't be afraid to bend the rules. You never know it may lead you to where you are trying to go.

-Emi Farai